Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases your risk of sever complications, heart attack, stroke and death. But what is hypertension? How is it treated?
Hypertension means that the blood is applying too much force to the walls of the blood vessels. It affects around 85 million people in the united states alone. The American Heart Association defines Hypertension as a blood pressure reading higher than 130 over 80 mmHg.
Causes of Hypertension
Often, the cause can be unknown. However, a common cause of hypertension is Chronic Kidney Disease. It can also be caused by an underlying medical condition.
- Age: Hypertension is more common in people aged over 60 years. With age, blood pressure can increase steadily as the arteries become stiffer and narrower due to plaque build-up.
- Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension.
- Size and weight: Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor.
- Alcohol and tobacco use: Consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly can increase a person’s blood pressure, as can smoking tobacco. Giving up smoking reduces the risk of hypertension, heart conditions, and other health issues.
- Sex: The lifetime risk is the same for males and females, but men are more prone to hypertension at a younger age.
- Existing health conditions: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol levels can lead to hypertension, especially as people get older.
Other contributing factors:
- Physical inactivity
- A salt-rich diet associated with processed and fatty foods
- Low potassium in the diet
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Certain diseases and medications
A family history of high blood pressure and poorly managed stress can also contribute to the development of hypertension.
Signs of Hypertension
A diagnosis of hypertension normally requires several readings because there are normal circumstances that can temporarily elevate blood pressure like exercise and stress.
Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because most people experience no symptoms. This is one reason why it is so important to have your blood pressure tested regularly.
High blood pressure may cause blushing, sweating, anxiety and problems sleeping. If it reaches the level of hypertensive crisis, you may experience headaches and nose bleeds.
Long term hypertension causes complications through atherosclerosis, the formation of plaque that results in narrow blood vessels. Consequently, the hypertension is worsened because the heart is forced to work harder. It can also lead to:
- Heart failure
- Heart attacks
- An aneurysm, or an abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery that can burst, causing severe bleeding and, in some cases, death
- Kidney failure
- Hypertensive retinopathies in the eye, which can lead to blindness
The best way to regulate blood pressure is through diet before it reaches the stage of hypertension. However, there are other treatment options, beginning with lifestyle adjustments.
Regular physical exercise
Current guidelines recommend that each week, people with hypertension engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic intensity exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise.
People should exercise on at least five days of the week. Examples include walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming.
Avoiding stress, or developing strategies for managing unavoidable stress, can help with blood pressure control.
Types of Hypertension
High blood pressure that is not caused by another disease or condition is known as primary hypertension. When it is a result of another condition, it is considered secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension can be caused by many things, including blood plasma volume and activity of the hormones that regulate of blood volume and pressure. It is also influenced by environmental factors, such as stress and inactivity.
Secondary hypertension has specific causes and is a complication of another problem. However, treating the underlying condition can improve the blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension can result from:
- Diabetes, due to both kidney problems and nerve damage
- Kidney disease
- Pheochromocytoma, a rare cancer of an adrenal gland
- Cushing syndrome, which can be caused by corticosteroid drugs
- Sleep apnea
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a disorder of the cortisol-secreting adrenal glands
- Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Hyperparathyroidism, which affects calcium and phosphorous levels
Diet and lifestyle changes are enough to manage some types of hypertension.
Reduce Salt Intake – The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 5mg of salt per day.
Lower Alcohol Consumption- American Heart Association recommends limiting alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day. Each of the following counts as one drink.
- 12 oz. bottle of beer
- 4 oz. of wine
- 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits
- 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits
More Fruits and Vegetables- People with hypertension should include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet and focus on correct portion sizes during meal times.
Less Fat- People with hypertension should consume as little fat as possible. They should avoid trans-fat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and animal fats. The following are recommended replacements
- Whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- Beans, pulses, and nuts
- Omega-3-rich fish twice a week
- Non-tropical vegetable oils, for example, olive oil
- Skinless poultry and fish
- Low-fat dairy products
Body Weight- Weight reduction normally leads to a decrease in blood pressure.
DASH Diet- U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an easy to follow diet plan that is designed to help people lower their blood pressure.
There are many available options if your doctor decides that you need medication. These medications include:
- Diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- Beta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- Peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- Calcium-channel blockers
- Central agonists
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin receptor blockers
Hypertension is a very serious condition. Untreated hypertension can cause severe complications.
If you suspect that you might have high blood pressure, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Don’t wait!